This made-from-scratch Twisted Macaroni and Cheese is ooey gooey deliciousness ideal for any occasion. It's smothered with a homemade cheese sauce, that features a blend of three varieties of cheese, for optimum cheesy flavor.
Twisted Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
What is it about mac and cheese? It's one of those cheesy side dishes that kids of all ages love. There are many variations, and I reach for a different one each time I make macaroni and cheese for my family. I love making classic dishes with a small twist, pardon the pun, and this twisted mac and cheese is one such example.
Southern Style Macaroni and Cheese to Try
On a busy day, I often make slow cooked mac and cheese or Southern style macaroni and cheese for dinner. The bonus is, the sauce for each one requires no additional cooking. For special gatherings crab macaroni and cheese always makes a splash, and my 5 cheese holiday macaroni and cheese is extra special with a blend of cheese that takes it to another level. Macaroni and cheese can be an entrée, or the complementary side to chicken, pork or grilled steak. In short, there's simply no wrong time to serve it. Ever.
How to Make the Best Twisted Macaroni and Cheese
- One of the most important things to remember when cooking macaroni is to shoot it to be slightly underdone or for al dente. If you overcook the twisted macaroni initially, it could become too mushy when baking.
- When making the homemade cheese sauce, cook the white sauce until it's thickened to the point of a thin pudding. When adding the shredded cheese, it will thicken further.
- You can use twisted macaroni or cavatappi pasta for this dish. Preferably with ridges.
- As with any macaroni and cheese you can adapt using any variety of cheese that you enjoy. This version works particularly well with the blend called for of cheddar, colby jack and creamy fontina cheese.
- If you like, you may top it with 1 cup seasoned, buttered bread crumbs prior to baking.
- This macaroni and cheese can be baked in any similar size oven safe skillet or 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
- Allow a few minutes of stand time at the end of baking, to give the sauce time to thicken to perfection, before serving.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
Twisted Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 16 oz box twisted macaroni or cavatappi pasta
- ½ cup salted butter, plus 2 Tbsp divided
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper adjust to taste
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg (pinch)
- few dashes hot sauce optional
- 2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups shredded fontina or gruyere cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 12 inch cast iron skillet with ½ tablespoon softened butter, reserving remaining 1 ½ tablespoon for top. Set aside. (Alternately, bake in any similar size oven safe skillet or 13 x 9 inch baking dish)
- Cook macaroni in salted water per the package instructions until al dente. Drain well, then add to a large mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a 4 quart heavy bottomed saucepan, melt ½ cup butter over medium heat. Add flour, mixing until flour is absorbed. Cook for 1 minute, while stirring.
- To the saucepan add, Dijon, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg and a dash or two, of hot sauce. Mix well. Gradually whisk in milk.
- Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately turn the heat to low. Simmer gently bubbling for 5 minutes. Stir periodically to prevent sticking.
- Toss together all three varieties of shredded cheese. Add 4 cups to sauce. Mix until completely melted, remove from heat.
- Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta in mixing bowl, mix until evenly coated.
- Pour half macaroni into buttered cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheese blend. Pour remaining macaroni evenly on top.
- Sprinkle macaroni with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Dot the top with reserved 1 ½ tablespoon butter.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until bubbly and golden.
- Let stand on counter for 10 minutes, then serve.
can you freeze this before baking? like prepare it in pan and then freeze?
I haven't tested it specifically for this recipe but I think you could. My only concern would be the sauce breaking down since it's not baked. That said, if you cool it completely before freezing, it will likely do fine. If you try it, let us know how it goes.
Which additional cheeses do you add for a special holiday version?
You can see the recipe for 5 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese here.
I’d like to try this, but can leftovers be frozen? TIA
Hi Stan, I freeze this all the time and it reheats beautifully. Thaw in the fridge then, reheat in a 325°F oven covered loosely with foil, until heated through.
Can’t wait to try it
Girl!! You are speaking my language w/this dish!❤️
Glad to hear it! ☺
Lisa A Davis
Does the idea of a BACON mac and cheese intrigue you? Just cook some bacon before starting the bechamel and use the bacon drippings as the fat. It spreads the taste of the "divine swine" as some call it through the entire casserole, and it doesn't matter if you get an actual piece of crumbled bacon or not! The cooked bacon can be "cook's treat" or if you're feeling generous, you can crumble it after it's cooked and stir it into the sauce along with the cheees.
LISA: I love that idea of adding bacon. I would also like to use Melissa's recipe and add cooked lobster meat. I had that one time at a restaurant and it was DIVINE, as well. Thanks, too, Melissa for a wonderful recipe.
Sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to try.